Portland Trail Blazers (Nate McMillan) 14-10
(Likely) Inactives: Greg Oden, Travis Outlaw, Patrick Mills
Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 10-11
(Likely) Inactives: Joe Alexander, Francisco Elson and Dan Gadzuric?
Time: 7:00 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Steve Blake
Blake has retained the starting spot despite the off-season acquisition of Andre Miller. Blake is a better shooter and can work off the ball a little better, which allows Brandon Roy to do a lot more ball handling, something he enjoys. Blake’s primary requirement is to stand off the ball and get ready to shoot open three’s. He’s having a slightly down year at 37 percent, but can knock them down with pretty good regularity on the right night. Jennings had a strong game against Toronto and has performed very well at home this year. The Blazers will likely look to contain him and are a pretty good defensive squad. They held the high scoring Aaron Brooks to six points on nine attempts the game following center Greg Oden’s injury, so they’ve had at least some success against high scoring point guards this year.
Carlos Delfino vs. Brandon Roy
Roy isn’t a shooting guard. He’s an everything guard. He’s the prototype for successful combo guards. He uses his handle and muscle to lead the Blazers in assists and rank fourth in rebounding on the team. He scores 21 a night and shoots nearly one free throw for every two shots. Translation: he likes to get in the paint and do work. He hasn’t been quite as spectacular this year as he was last and part of the reason is, while he still does work inside, he hasn’t been getting to the rim as much. He’s averaging two fewer attempts at the rim a night than he did last year. If Roy only takes four shots at the rim Saturday night, the Bucks will be in great shape, but that may just be wishful thinking. I’d look for him to attack the Bucks off the dribble and capitalize on Milwaukee’s tendency to foul everyone and everything.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Martell Webster
Webster and LRMAM may be total opposites. Webster makes his living shooting three’s and from what I understand, is an inconsistent defender. LRMAM makes his living on defense and from what I know, is an inconsistent shooter. Regardless, don’t expect to see these two matched up very often when Portland has the ball. It’s going to be LRMAM who gets the call when Brandon Roy gets the ball.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge may see some time at center when he’s on the court without Przybilla and that’s where he really can cause problems. With his agility and shooting prowess he’s a mismatch waiting to happen. Kind of like Kevin Garnett, or Chris Bosh. Hey! The Bucks just saw both of them! I’d think Ilyasova gets the call on him, but I thought that about Bosh too and Bogut saw a lot of minutes matched up with him. Interesting to see how Skiles plays this one. Ilyasova will have to be pesky and crashing the boards again Saturday to minimize the Blazers rebounding advantage. Portland leads the league in rebounding differential at plus five.
Andrew Bogut vs. Joel Przybilla
What can I say about Przybilla? He’s developed into exactly what Milwaukee hoped for when they drafted him in 2000. Too bad he’s done it elsewhere. With Oden out Pryz has seen an increase in minutes and a slight increase in rebounds, but hasn’t been the shot-blocker he’s shown himself to be in year’s past. He may have dialed it down a notch knowing the Blazers are thin in the front court after numerous injuries. If he gets into the foul trouble the Blazers are, well, screwed to put it bluntly. Long, strong and athletic centers have been giving Bogut problems lately, so this is a good chance for him to show he can get it done more consistently regardless of who he is facing.
Luke Ridnour, Hakim Warrick, Michael Redd and Roko Ukic
Andre Miller, Juwan Howard and Jerryd Bayless
The Bucks will be faced with an interesting conundrum when filling out their lineup on Saturday night. Now that Redd is back and Roko Ukic has earned a few minutes, the question becomes, who will be inactive? Logic suggests Dan Gadzuric. The Blazers, while young, are a deliberate team and don’t play a style suited for Gadz to have a successful night. Skiles did say last Wednesday that Ukic would get some time and Redd is reportedly going to make his re-re-debut on Saturday. The Blazers have been struck upside the head with an injury two-by-four this year and are down to their free agent signing Andre Miller, the journeyman Juwan Howard and disgruntled second-year guard Jerryd Bayless. The Bucks will be as deep Saturday as they’ve been all year.
Prediction: Bucks 94 – Blazers 86
You won’t see the Bucks hand the Blazers any tissue if they want to weep about their injury situation. Not that they ever would with tough guy Roy and the hard lined Nate McMillan leading them. But, the Blazers ARE sapped of healthy players and at the tail end of a four game road trip to the East. The stars are aligned for the Bucks to pull this one off. It’s practically an opportunity they can’t let slip by, especially given the two days rest they’ve had leading up to Saturday.